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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Apple Cider Century

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Nelson Kraybill talks about his bicycle ride with a new hip.

About a year after my triple bypass heart surgery in 2016, I was under the knife again—this time for a high-tech titanium-ceramic joint to replace my painful right hip.

Rehab from that double medical whammy triggered changes in my life. I became vegetarian—and took up bicycle riding again.

My bicycle is a 2002 Cannondale, one of the old ones that says, “handmade in the USA.” Bicycle technology certainly has surpassed my old clunker, but that did not stop me from imagining that perhaps I could do a century bicycle ride again—100 miles in one day with a bunch of other fanatics. I set my sights on the Apple Cider Century that every September draws thousands to Three Oaks, Michigan.

Every other day over summer I trained by riding twenty miles round-trip south on CR 9 to old Blossers Church. The spell-checker on my phone changed the church’s name to “Blasters,” which I found appropriate for how I wanted take on the century ride: “I think I’ll ride to Blasters today,” I would tell my wife.

But the entire week before the big day, she and I were camping in Kentucky. I had no time on bicycle for more than a week before the Apple Cider Century. But at dawn’s early light on the day after we got back, I was on the starting line at Three Oaks.

All day hundreds of younger people passed me, some on new-fangled bikes made of titanium, carbon fiber, and I-don’t-know-what.

If I was one of the first riders out in the morning, I also was one of the last back at dusk. I am ornery enough that I finished the one hundred miles, but frankly, that just about finished me.

Driving home to Elkhart, I was so tired I realized I wasn’t safe at the wheel. I pulled into a parking lot and instantly fell asleep—until a phone call from my wife awakened me: “Where are you?!”

Two weeks later, when bruises on my rear end were beginning to heal, I wrote the following, which I call “Apple Cider Century.”

Apple Cider Century
in my sixty-seventh year
mile sixty-seven and
I find a lower gear
to climb another mountain
that locals call a hill
on my twenty-year-old
Cannondale
thinking that I will

pull aside and pant

Carbon fiber-titanium
frames stream by
at twice the speed
I would try
slip-streamed youth
in peloton
bypass me
in fading sun
where I

hydrate and pant

My ischial tuberosities
are a monumental pain
cramping thighs and
aching arms are
driving me insane
but I

stretch my battered body
and refuse to take a ride
from the kindly rescue driver
who pulls up by my side
while I

smile and pant

As carbon fiber-titanium
bypasses me
I begin to see
that the only titanium
I can talk
is the hip replacement
that lets me walk
and the only bypass
I can claim
is the triple kind
of coronary fame

I’ll make it to one hundred
with thirty-three to go
stop when I have to
take it pretty slow

I wonder if those kids
will ride so fine
when they are sixty-seven
and I am ninety-nine